Q: Kindly advise me on the subject of how one terminates old friendships.

I have a number of friends from past years who have relocated to cities in other parts of the country. My life style and values have come to be quite different from those of my former friends, so when they moved away, I assumed that our friendships would fade.

To my surprise, these folks (three of them, all unrelated) seem determined to cling to our former friendships. During the last three or four years, I have never written or called, and I assumed (wrongly) that these former friends would get the hint.

When they call, I am polite but not effusive. When holidays roll around, one of them invariably wants to visit for a week or two. I find their visits to be exhausting and expensive.

Miss Manners, I have no desire to hurt these former friends, but I am close to desperation. How can I extricate myself without being unkind?

A: Miss Manners urges you not to be too thorough about divesting yourself of old friendships. "Life style" tastes come and go, but people who stood up for you on the grade school playground or listened to the hopes of your teens become increasingly precious through the years.

That is not to say that Miss Manners feels you need to have them in the house with you now. Even the closest of friends should understand that having house guests requires a commitment of time and energy that people of good will may not be able to make.

It is your inadvertent good fortune, Miss Manners believes, that your hints enabled you to wind down the friendship, omitting the usual correspondence and calls, without convincing your friends that your true intention is never to have to set eyes on them again.

Do the same for the matter of visiting. To avoid opening your door now, you need not slam it in anyone's face, or nail it permanently shut.